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Over-the-counter home test for COVID-19 gets U.S. green light from FDA

WASHINGTON | The first home test for COVID-19 that doesn’t require a prescription will soon be on U.S. store shelves.

U.S. regulators Tuesday authorized the rapid coronavirus test, which can be done entirely at home. The announcement by the Food and Drug Administration represents another important — though incremental — step in efforts to expand testing options.

Regulators granted emergency use for a similar home test last month, but that one needs a doctor’s prescription.

The agency’s action Tuesday allows sales in places like drugstores “where a patient can buy it, swab their nose, run the test and find out their results in as little as 20 minutes,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, in a statement.

Initial supplies of the over-the-counter test will be limited. Australian manufacturer Ellume said it expects to produce 3 million tests next month before ramping up production over the first half of 2021.

Biden to pick Buttigieg, Granholm to join Cabinet

WASHINGTON | President-elect is expected to pick his former rival Pete Buttigieg as secretary of transportation and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as energy secretary, according to four people familiar with the plans.

Buttigieg would be the first openly gay person confirmed by the Senate to a Cabinet post. At 38, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, would also add a youthful dynamic to an incoming administration that is so far dominated in large part by leaders with decades of Washington experience.

Granholm, 61, served as Michigan’s attorney general from 1999 to 2003 and two terms as Michigan’s first female governor, from 2003 to 2010. She was a supporter of Biden’s presidential bid and has spoken out against President ’s attempts to overturn the election results, accusing him of “poisoning democracy.”

Biden to take oath outside Capitol amid virus restrictions

WASHINGTON | President-elect and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris aim to take their oaths of office outside the U.S. Capitol building as inauguration planners seek to craft an event that captures the traditional grandeur of the historic ceremony while complying with COVID-19 protocols.

Biden’s team released some broad details for the Jan. 20 event on Tuesday. One big unknown: Will President participate?

The president, who continues to make unproven claims of widespread voter fraud, has not yet told current and former White House aides whether he will attend Biden’s inauguration. While many had assumed he would skip the event after his loss, some now do expect him to make an appearance for the sake of tradition, even if he tries to overshadow the event by, perhaps, announcing the launch of his 2024 campaign just before.

EU regulators move up Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine assessment to Dec. 21

BERLIN | Facing strong pressure from Germany and other European Union nations, the bloc’s medicines agency on Tuesday moved up a meeting to assess the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to Dec. 21, likely bringing vaccinations a step closer for millions of EU citizens.

The agency said it made the decision after receiving additional data from the vaccine makers. The announcement came after Germany’s health minister and others had publicly demanded that the agency move quicker than its previously planned Dec. 29 meeting at which it was to discuss approving the vaccine.

The vaccine is already being given daily to thousands of people in Britain, Canada and the United States, galling some Europeans who note that BioNTech is a Germany company.

— From AP reports

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